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“Sid, was it you that told?”
“Oh, never mind who it was. Somebody told — that’s enough.”
“Sid, there’s only one person in this town mean enough to do that, and that’s you. If you had been in Huck’s place you’d ‘a’ sneaked down the hill and never told anybody on the robbers. You can’t do any but mean things, and you can’t bear to see anybody praised for doing good ones. There — no thanks, as the widow says” — and Tom cuffed Sid’s ears and helped him to the door with several kicks. “Now go and tell auntie if you dare — and to-morrow you’ll catch it!”
–Mark Twain, Adventures of Tom Sawyer
“Now, the term ”70s porn star’ might have you thinking pubic hair grooming is a new thing, invented since then,” Beth told the class. She was fully aware that most of them were looking at the diverse collage of female and male pubic hair stylings she always put up to accompany this lesson, rather than at her. She didn’t mind; the whole idea was teaching them that there was as much variance there as anywhere else on the body and that they were all beautiful in their own way. “But the truth is that it’s gone in and out of style literally since ancient Greece. Back then they burned pubic hair off, if you can believe that! In ancient Rome, both sexes did it, although men were often suspected of being gay if they did.”
“Just like today!” proclaimed Randy, always the smart-aleck. As usual, his comment drew adoring giggles from the girls in the back row — Beth called them the peanut gallery — who had spent the past four years cheerleading for Randy on the football field.
“Sorry, Randy, but I’m still not going out with you no matter how many times you wax,” chirped Rich, who never missed a chance to needle Randy.
“Aw, to hell with that, Rich!” Randy looked disgusted. “Ask Cheltze about boyzilians, why don’t you?”
“They’re lovely,” Cheltze piped up. “They can make your dick look a lot bigger.” With her best nasty grin, she added, “But I’m with Rich, Randy, I still wouldn’t bother with you even if you got one.”
“Pardon me?” Randy demanded. “Cheap-Date Cheltze?”
“Yes, and even I wouldn’t –“
“That’s enough!” Beth declared in the stern voice she almost never used — except at a time like this. “You all know it’s fine and encouraged to share your own experiences in this class, but what’s the first rule in my classroom?”
Near the back of the silent classroom, a timid hand went up. “Yes, Jane?” Beth asked.
“Treat everyone else and their experiences with respect,” Jane recited.
Beth broke the tension with a gentle smile to hide her frustration. Jane was a brilliant young woman who was well onto the spectrum, known campuswide for taking everything absolutely literally. One day before June, Beth promised herself yet again, she would remember not to pose rhetorical questions in Jane’s presence. “Yes, Jane, that is correct,” she said, opting not to bother explaining that she hadn’t really expected an answer — the students all knew that rule inside out. “Now, let’s do that, understood?”
“Yes, Beth,” came a ragged chorus of most of the class.
To their credit, none of them laughed at Jane. Bullying existed at Spinard Academy just like at any other high school, no matter how elite or progressive; but Jane, who had overcome her disabilities to excel at Spinard for nearly four years now, was strictly off limits. That was just one of many things Beth loved about her job teaching sex education at the remarkably progressive boarding school. Three years in, she wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
Despite Beth’s best efforts at fostering a safe atmosphere, there were certain sessions that always inspired at least one inappropriate or hurtful comment. The class on intimate grooming was one of them, and so Beth was disappointed but not surprised at the turn things took that day. Having quelled the brewing troubles, she soldiered on with her lesson plan. “Now, in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, we see an interesting trend. Evidence suggests that most women did not remove their pubic hair, but paintings from the time usually depict them as doing so.” She pointed to a sixteenth-century painting in the collage to illustrate. “Any thoughts as to why that is?”
Chad, Randy’s nearly-as-cocky sidekick, raised his hand immediately. Without waiting for Beth to call on him, he proclaimed, “Because the artists were all male, and we know what looks good on a woman even if she doesn’t.”
Of course the peanut gallery burst into their usual giggles at that. More surprisingly to Beth, so did Stephanie, the rotten-to-the-core golden child of the entire school. Most teachers at Spinard adored Stephanie like few other students. Beth wasn’t most teachers, and she remembered from her own adolescence that a student who tried too hard to be loved by the grown-ups was so often a manipulative little wretch.
Stephanie was the worst such case she’d ever met, but Beth was careful to keep that — and all her opinions of the students — to herself. Though privately annoyed at the casino şirketleri laughing, she swallowed her bias and asked, “Stephanie, do you agree with him?”
“Well, yeah, Beth,” Stephanie said. “Too many women get wrapped up in that whole feminist thing where you’re supposed to act more like a man, and they forget what a gift it is to be different. We’re supposed to be smooth and…you know.”
“No, I don’t know,” Beth said, turning to look at the collage behind her. She stepped aside to make sure the whole class could see. “I look at all the different styles and what I see is that no one is ‘supposed’ to look like anything in particular. The human body is amazingly diverse in its appearance from one person to the next, and this is just another form of that diversity.”
“That doesn’t make it attractive, Beth,” Stephanie argued. “Women are only supposed to have a little hair there, if any at all.”
Beside her, quiet, sweet Robbie — the Class Gentleman in Beth’s esteem — raised his hand. “Yes, Robbie?” Beth asked with relief.
“I think…” as usual, she could see he was painfully shy; but as usual he managed to overcome it, if only just. “I think, first of all, there’s no set list of what a woman is ‘supposed’ to have or look like, and I also think feminism has nothing to do with telling women to be different or the same as men. It’s about letting women do what they like with their own bodies, including what they do or don’t shave. Just like men do.”
At this, Beth nodded and did her best not to show any favoritism. But she couldn’t help cracking a bit of a smile as she watched Stephanie scowl at him.
Robbie wasn’t quite done. “I also think — or feel, I guess — I feel a woman with a lot of pubic hair is very sensuous. It looks so much more grown-up, you know? Really dignified.”
“Yes, a lot of men do feel that way, Robbie,” Beth said. When his comment and her response inspired a number of disagreeing chuckles throughout the class, she continued, “It’s true! Sexuality is a very individualistic thing, and what you find repulsive might well be beautiful to the person next to you. In fact, I guarantee everyone in this room has something that turns him or her on, that someone else in the room wouldn’t like at all.” Beth passed over in silence the dirty look Stephanie was still giving Robbie. She knew why, of course: another thing she had learned to spot over the years was a student who had a crush on a classmate. Stephanie had been showing every sign there was throughout the term with respect to Robbie, while Robbie himself gave no sign of knowing as much. Beth considered that just as well. Robbie was much too nice for Stephanie, after all. “Natural beauty is certainly one of those things, and incidentally, so is hair removal. You will always find people who love and hate both.” A glance at her watch confirmed that it was nearly the end of class. “Okay, time for ask-anything! Who’s got a question?”
Beth wasn’t at all surprised when Randy’s hand was the first to shoot up. She was even less surprised at his question, which silenced even the peanut gallery. “Beth, do you shave your vagina?”
“My vagina is inside my body, and it doesn’t grow hair, Randy.” Everyone laughed except Randy and his usual admirers.
“You know what I mean!” Randy protested.
“Yes, and you know I only answer properly phrased questions. Has anyone got any?”
Cherie, one of Stephanie’s minions, had a question about health concerns with shaving. As Beth answered it, she once again wished she’d had the guts to include a photograph of her own big, bushy triangle in the collage. No one would ever know it was her, after all; plenty of the students had seen her in a swimsuit, but beyond that was a line even she wouldn’t cross. But as usual she had chickened out on it. Maybe next year, she mused.
Class was over. But as the students packed up their books, the conversation remained on topic. “I’m with you, Steph,” Chad said, easily loud enough for Beth to hear from her perch in front of her desk. “I was with a chick once who didn’t take care of herself down there. It was like, whoa there, Weed Whacker Woman! Sorry, but I left my clippers at home!” To Robbie, he added, “No offense, kiddo, but you’ve got lousy taste!”
“Yeah, that’s just nasty,” Randy agreed, while Robbie had the good taste to ignore Chad. “If your fingers disappear in there, that’s just wrong.”
“God only knows what she’s got in there!” Chad added, still glaring at Robbie. “Crabs, maybe?”
“Well, I hope you’re all manscaping too!” Cherie retorted, hooking her arm through Stephanie’s. “Fair’s fair, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, right!” Chad and Randy said in unison.
“It’s like you said, Steph, it’s a woman thing,” Randy added. “It’s okay for my dick to be hairy, ain’t it?”
“I’m sure everything’s fine about your dick, Randy,” Stephanie chirped. “Just keep it away from me.”
Robbie was fiddling about with his backpack, apparently searching for something. When the others had finally taken their leave, he looked up casino firmaları at Beth and zipped up his bag. At once Beth’s heart soared and she felt a stab of guilt as she realized he was waiting to talk to her alone. “God, I thought they’d never get lost!” he said. “I just wanted to say…I’m sorry, Beth.”
“You’ve got nothing to be sorry for, Robbie,” Beth said. “They’re the intolerant ones, not you.” She longed to add how much she had appreciated his admiration for natural hairy women, but that would be revealing a bit too much, she concluded. It was already getting hard to keep her attraction to Robbie to herself.
“I guess that’s why I wanted to say that,” Robbie said. “It doesn’t make a very good impression on Spinard, does it? Or at least the boys of Spinard.”
“There are nice people and jerks in every school on earth, Robbie,” Beth said. “Believe me, I was in school long enough to know all about that.”
“I don’t think it’s fair that they’re expecting the girls to do all that work when they’re not willing to do it themselves,” added Jane, who as usual was the last to finish packing up her supplies; she always had to have everything packed meticulously in just the right place.
“I agree completely,” Beth said. “But you know, I think they’re mostly blowing smoke.”
Jane was aghast. “Blowing smoke! In a girl’s vagina? That sounds horrible!”
“I’m sorry, Jane, it’s only a saying.” Beth was nearly resigned to never learning to communicate with Jane. Cumbersome as that was, she was glad to live in a time when special needs students like Jane got the attention they needed to thrive. It was late March anyway, and Jane would be graduating in three more months. And near the top of the class at that, although Stephanie’s smarmy ways had all but assured she would be valedictorian. As she and Robbie both were ready to leave at last, she said, “Thanks again for your patience, both of you. I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Of course,” Robbie said with that shy grin that reminded Beth more than a little bit of herself at his age, and they were off.
Beth would lose no sleep over the jocks’ lousy attitudes. One thing this job had taught her was that when it came to sex, the old saw was true: the louder they boasted, the less secure they really were. She might well lose sleep over Robbie, for she had found herself becoming inappropriately fond of him over the past few months. But not over the jocks.
Refreshingly, the jocks didn’t rule the halls of Spinard Academy like they had in Beth’s own high school anyway. Spinard Academy was a very progressive boarding school, popular among parents who recalled the free love of decades past and wanted their children to be equally open minded when they went out into the world. This was reflected in everything from the coed dorms for the upperclassmen to the policy of letting students call the teachers by their first names if they were so inclined. It was reflected most of all in the Human Sexuality course for the seniors, which rather than only teaching about birth control and safety measures, employed an extremely frank approach designed to teach the students what sex was truly like.
That course’s reputation had preceded it when Beth had applied for the instructor position just before finishing her master’s degree. It had sounded too good to be true, but she had applied anyway on a lark. Nevertheless, she had been rather bewildered when Dr. Kartz, the headmaster, had advised her in their interview that every word she’d heard was true. “Indeed, Elizabeth, it is more than likely even more intense than you’ve heard, and it tends to get very personal. If that gives you any pause at all, now is the time to say so. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time and mine.”
“Call me Beth, please, and I assure you that’s just fine,” she’d told him, smiling through her nervousness and telling herself that it really was fine. “Doctor Kartz, you’re talking to someone who kept a written list of her favorite masturbation hideouts in the house when she was several years younger than those students, complete with notes on how long I could expect to be undisturbed in each one.”
“Which was your favorite?” he’d asked her with a straight face.
“The old couch in the basement, by the washing machine,” Beth had replied without batting an eye. “If I heard the basement door open, I could just yank my skirt back down and pick up one of the comic books I kept on the floor, and tell my mother I liked the fluorescent light for reading. Which was true anyway.” She’d grinned at the deliciously naughty memory.
Doctor Kartz had grinned back. “Would you be comfortable telling that story to the kids?”
Though her heart had done a backflip in her chest, Beth had kept her poker face. “As long as I have your word their parents won’t be offended if I do.”
“Beth, this is Spinard Academy. They might well be offended if you don’t.”
Three years later, Human Sexuality had gone from a necessary embarrassment for seniors to the most popular course at Spinard. Thanks to her reputation güvenilir casino for answering any question without even a hint of embarrassment and for fostering respectful discourse on all sorts of intimate topics, Beth heard rumors that the freshmen looked forward to it from day one on campus. “She doesn’t just lecture you about safe sex, you learn about how it all really works, especially the fun parts,” was one endorsement she had overheard and taken to heart. And she wasn’t even sure if the couch story would make the top ten on her list of anecdotes she’d shared with the students.
Certainly the students had greater and more-varied experiences than she’d had at their age — at least they said so. But Beth had to admit that wasn’t all that hard to do. She’d been a shy girl with a wild imagination. And how that had paid off career-wise!
Stephanie was just the sort Beth had loved to hate when she was their age, back when she was the tall, shy, hairy girl who spent so much of her free time thinking about the things she now got paid to teach the kids about. (In those days, of course, she was ever so certain she was a pervert as a result of those thoughts, and the girls like Stephanie had done plenty to encourage such beliefs.) Every school had an obnoxious smarm who was known even to the teachers who hadn’t had her in class yet — the one in Beth’s class had been named Carolyn and she was a stockbroker now — and Beth had heard enough about Stephanie’s exploits over the prior three years to be thoroughly unsurprised when the notorious girl had turned out to be so disagreeable.
The worst sort of bullying ringleader, Stephanie had spent her entire tenure at Spinard starting rumors and finding other students’ weak spots and encouraging others to exploit them in the sort of sadistic ways only teenagers could do. She had inspired all sorts of misery for half the class and she’d gotten the other half in trouble for causing that misery. But she had never gotten in any trouble herself, because her mother was a well-connected Spinard old girl who had raised contributions untold for the school’s endowment. Any accusation of bullying brought a firm insistence that “My daughter would never do a thing like that!” And so her daughter had always “done a thing like that”, her only punishment being that she was now quite unpopular among her victims and her scapegoats alike.
She did, though, still have her loyal gal pals. The most loyal of the lot were Kris and Cherie, with whom she was lying in wait when Robbie finally emerged from Beth’s classroom that afternoon.
They both knew just why Stephanie was glaring down the hall at him as he and Jane made their way to the next class. No one got away with showing Stephanie up like he had done, even if it was a guy she’d had a crush on off and on since freshman year. “Steph, you already weren’t friends anyway,” Kris said as gently as she dared. “You think he’s forgotten the suitcase incident?”
“That wasn’t me!” Stephanie insisted. “Dr. Kartz himself said so, you know that! And he ought to be over it by now anyway.”
“Right,” Cherie said. She remembered all too well the nasty prank that had made poor Robbie look like a gullible moron in front of the entire freshman dorm when his only real mistake had been to trust a friend — Cherie herself. She had gotten off scot free thanks to Stephanie and her mother, who had ensured Dr. Kartz that “My daughter would never do a thing like that, and I’m sure her friends wouldn’t either!” But she had also lost Robbie’s trust forever. This year she had the rotten luck of being assigned to work at the school library, where Robbie was senior librarian’s aide — technically her immediate supervisor. He’d ben scrupulously fair to her every day they’d had to work together, but never the friend he had once been.
Cherie had spent the three years since then asking herself why she hadn’t blown Stephanie off right after the suitcase incident. But she hadn’t, and with just a few months to graduation it hardly mattered now.
“What a fucking loser,” Stephanie grumbled now. “He had no right to contradict me like that. What does he know about being a woman?”
“He didn’t really contradict you, you know,” Cherie said, tamping down her anger at the memory of the suitcase incident. “And he never said anything about knowing what it’s like to be a woman either. He just disagreed with you.”
“Cherie, you don’t get it! And imagine my surprise at that, too! He insulted me for being a woman who takes care of myself!” Stephanie shot back. “Besides, if he likes…that look, the hairy look, it means…” She did her best to hide her disappointment behind a façade of disgust, but for once she couldn’t quite pull it off. It meant Robbie, whom she had adored since freshman year, would never be interested in her that way, not even for one end-of-the-line fling before graduation.
Cherie, more than a bit hurt at Stephanie’s barb, did something she had almost never done before: she hit back. “I wonder who Robbie’s going to prom with?” She and Kris both knew Stephanie had been angling for that honor for ages, and they knew it was hopeless and already had been before today. Robbie hadn’t forgotten the suitcase incident or who was truly responsible for it, after all.
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